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Quantum Dot Diagnostics Project


Generating solutions




Competition III

Genome Centre(s)



Project Leader(s)

Fiscal Year Project Launched


Project Description

Worldwide, infectious diseases cause billions of infections and over 17 million deaths each year. With its well­traveled population and cultural diversity, Canada is at risk of global diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), malaria and avian influenza (bird flu). But Canada is developing cutting­edge expertise in the rapid and accurate diagnosis of infectious diseases, based on nanotechnology.

Kevin C. Kain, Director of the McLaughlin­Rotman Center for Global Health and Senior Scientist in the division of genomic medicine at the Toronto General Research Institute, and Michael Greenberg, FIO Corp, are project leaders of Quantum dot diagnostics: simultaneous genomic and proteomic profiling of multiple pathogens at point­of­care.

They have assembled a research team that will incorporate advances in nanotechnology with pathogen genomics and proteomics, in order to create a high­throughput diagnostic system capable of detecting multiple global infectious diseases within minutes. The system is based on quantum dots ­ tiny fluorescent probes that can be used as biomarkers to tag organic molecules and track them during biological processes. The research team plans to develop this diagnostic system specifically for use at point of care, in order to detect or exclude the presence of pathogens related to five major infectious diseases ­ SARS, HIV/AIDS, malaria, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. The social and economic potential of this innovative system is underscored by the fact that these five diseases account for over 2 billion infections and 5 million deaths worldwide each year.

The project is organized into a continuous discovery pipeline, making it possible to accelerate discovery of diagnostic tools, commercialize them and translate them into clinical use. According to Kain, “the ability to definitively detect or exclude multiple pathogens at point of care within minutes would be a breakthrough with impact on our healthcare system, the quality of life of Canadians as well as global communities.”

Integrated GE3LS Research: Regulation and monitoring of convergent technologies
GE3LS Project Leaders: Abdallah Daar, University of Toronto
The team will systematically address the potential GE³LS issues stemming from the development and commercialization of the quantum dot (Qdot) diagnostic system, a high-throughput diagnostic system capable of detecting multiple global infectious disease threats at point-of-care; in 3 parts:

  1. Public Engagement: The project team will develop and evaluate a public engagement tool for high school students and the general public that encompasses various emergent technologies and their application to infectious disease research.
  2. Regulation of the Convergence of Genomics, Proteomics and Nanotechnology: The project team will identify regulatory issues related to convergent technologies and work with Canadian regulatory authorities to develop regimes and guidelines on implementation of any standards that may be developed. As such, they will
    • survey Canadian and international regulatory regimes for each of the major technologies involved in the project;
    • develop a database of cognate regulatory regimes;
    • identify potential bottlenecks that are likely to slow down the development of convergent technologies;
    • develop recommendations for the federal government on how to streamline the different regimes to develop “smart regulation” for convergent technologies; and
    • work with Canadian regulatory authorities to develop regulatory regimes and guidelines on implementation of any future Canadian standards.
  3. Monitoring of Risks and Benefits of Quantum Dots: The project team will monitor research on toxicity of Qdots and develop an annotated database of research publications and data on the potential risks of Qdots after exposure, and participate in policy discussions with the Canadian federal government on these issues.